James Comey testimony: How to talk about it without throwing punches at your colleagues

Across the country, many will find themselves streaming former FBI director James Comey's testimony on their iPhones, or watching alongside colleagues. (Some of you, admit it, will try to be sneaky about tuning in when the boss comes around.)

During the much-anticipated appearance Thursday, Comey is expected to provide dramatic testimony that President Trump pressed him to pledge his loyalty and drop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia.

While people tend to avoid politics at work, the testimony is at 10 a.m. ET, putting many in a potentially awkward position. Should you tell your coworkers how you feel about Comey? Or the president? 

Dr. James Lomax, a professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, says it’s important for people to learn how to remain calm when things get heated in the office.

Here are a few tips: 

If you feel yourself starting to get heated about something a coworker says, be ready to end the conversation quickly, Lomax said.

“One safety phrase could be, ‘I don’t feel comfortable talking about this,’ or ‘I remember something I have to do,' and leave,” Lomax said in a 2016 interview. “You need to get out of the situation before it gets worse."

The bottom line: Get out of there.

Thinking about ranting on social media? Think again. 

Social media gives people the illusion of invulnerability, Lomax said, but what you post today could bite you later.

“It’s important to remember people read what you say,” he said.

If you are feeling tempted to respond to a coworker’s inflammatory post, take a few minutes to think before you comment in a way you may later regret.

“We ought to engage in more civil and calmer discourse and not be violent in our communications,” he said.

Focus on your behavior and how you want others to see you

It’s easy to lose control and react before thinking about what you are doing, Lomax said. People who want to maintain control during a heated conversation can take a page from some techniques that are taught in therapy.

Lomas said there are many nonverbal activities that can serve as reminders to check your emotions and think before you act.

“When you feel your emotions increasing and heart rate increasing, if you touch yourself in a calm way on the wrist or forearm ... you can remind yourself to refocus and engage in a reflective way instead of arguing,” Lomax said.

People can also carry small objects like stones in their pocket as a tool to hold and remind themselves to refocus during a confrontation, Lomas said. 

Remember your place in the organization

“Obviously you want people to be passionate about political beliefs … but you also want to be successful in your job,” Lomax said

If you are in a position of authority and find yourself in a heated conversation with a subordinate, you need to stand down.

“People who report to you should have a confidence in you as a supervisor, “ Lomax said. “If you find yourself becoming heated in a conversation with someone who reports to you, try to distance yourself from that and apologize.”

If you find yourself arguing with your boss about politics, it’s time to think about your long-term goals at the company.

“Reflect on what you are trying to accomplish and on the bigger picture, not just the argument,” he said.

Follow @MaryBowerman on Twitter.

Editor's note: This article features an interview from 2016.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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